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Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert: Livestreaming Could be Good for Basketball

Gilbert believes all NBA content is good NBA content.

Kurt Wagner

Cleveland Cavaliers owner and Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert says doesn’t know much about livestreaming apps like Periscope and Meerkat.

But as a self-made billionaire, he does know about little bit about business — and he thinks livestreaming may be good for the business of professional basketball.

“When we first got in the league ten years ago, not only the NBA but all the pro teams were making YouTube scrape off their highlights,” he said Friday night from San Francisco. “I walked into the [owner’s] meeting and I said, ‘Wait a minute. If any of the networks were to play our highlights for free, would we be upset about that? So why are we upset that YouTube is taking our product for free and broadcasting it?'”

Gilbert isn’t worried about content or copyright disputes. In fact, he’s of the mindset that free promotion — whether from fans or the media — can be a good thing so long as there’s a business model down the road.

“The more media puts out your product for free, that’s what you’re trying to do,” he said. “Any content, let it get out there as long as there are some revenue streams you can perceive in the future.”

Gilbert spoke alongside Golden State Warriors Owner Joe Lacob Friday as part of an event for Chat Sports, a San Francisco-based content curation app for sports fans.

The two owners are going head-to-head as their teams face off in the NBA Finals, and they also have a fair amount of common ground as technology investors, with Lacob winding up a career as a long-time partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. It turns out they shared a career track from the early days; Gilbert’s first job was delivering pizza, while Lacob was a peanut hawker at sports events. And they said they’re both enthusiastic about sports technology like displaying live statistics in the arena and the idea of live virtual reality versions of courtside seats.

The conversation turned playful at times, though Gilbert was clearly disappointed with the news that one of his top players, Kyrie Irving, had suffered a season-ending injury in game one. Still, Gilbert kept the competitive jabs coming, joking that pizza is superior to peanuts, insisting that he carries more mobile devices than Lacob (two iPhones and a BlackBerry), and that Lacob should watch out for the Cavs stealing Steph Curry, the Warriors’ best player, when his contract expires in a few years.

Lacob, meanwhile, was happy to point out how great the game had been the night before — the Warriors won in overtime to take an early series lead.

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